Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 2 – 2020-21
Let’s Prep for the Best
Instructional — and personal — lessons from the pandemic
Nancy Carroll
Assistant Principal, West Seattle High School, Seattle PS
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture, Engaging Communities
One Sunday evening, as I laid out my headset, laptop, screen wipes, mascara, eye shadow, blue light glasses, and to-do list in my home office, it struck me there’s more prep work in getting ready for a virtual school day. Pre-COVID, I’d just show up at school and plop on my walkie talkie. At the same time, I thought about the gratitude, quirky moments of joy and connections with staff and students this year. Like a teacher’s kiddo showing me a picture she drew. Or another teacher’s sons jumping on camera to introduce themselves during her fall goal-setting meeting. And a teacher’s toddler running around the house in his pajamas and rolling tape on the walls. A student asking me for a recommendation letter because he said I knew him well. Teams messages from students asking to check in or talk. Or our auto shop teacher, who’s also a Rat City Roller Girl, gave me roller skating tips when I told her I was going to skate around the empty halls of our high school on a quick break. That’s something I never could have done before during a crowded passing period! I reflected how many teachers are doing some amazing, creative work with instruction to propel their practice to rocket ship awesomeness. Some are cultivating student leadership with virtual classroom jobs, like a class DJ, chat facilitator, and break out room facilitators. On a systems level this year, I’ve seen major sparkles of hope from our students’ initiative. For example, our Intersectional Feminist Club reached out to school administration in the fall about rewriting our student handbook and revising district policy on dealing with sexual assault. They’re also writing advisory lessons and a leading webinar on consent, have arranged with a community provider for teachers to get sexual trauma-informed training, and have been working with our District Title IX office on prevention education. Our student leaders in our No Place for Hate Committee have provided critique of curriculum and shared their thoughts astutely and vocally regarding selecting more anti-racist curriculum and diplomatically questioned the use of certain “canon” literature in a discussion with staff and administration.
I thought about the gratitude, quirky moments of joy and connections with staff and students this year.
I thought about the hard times this year as I finished my Sunday night prep. In our school community, we have had student deaths, students with mental health crises, a parent die by suicide, and another teacher in the district died by suicide. I do not wish to downplay those tragedies and the horrors of the pandemic and civil unrest. Yet to keep going, my eyes are open out for daily wins and sparks of joy to add to my gratitude list. It is too easy to careen into despair right now. Our schools and families need us to stay in hope, and remain courageous even when we are shaking in our boots (or roller skates). We need to lean on each other as administrators. Gratitude, an eye for joy, and a phone call or laughs over FaceTime with a fellow admin buddy after a hard day are some of the best weapons I’ve found against despair, gloom, and future-tripping. This school year has been surreal and science fictiony, indeed.
I know we will get through this one day at a time, together. Let’s prep for the best.
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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 2 – 2020-21